Premarital counseling can provide a safe space for you and your partner to discuss various topics that are likely to impact your marriage. It can also be an opportunity for the two of you to learn about effective communication and conflict resolution from a licensed mental health professional. A few of the topics that may be covered during premarital counseling sessions include finances, children, intimacy, beliefs and values, future goals and aspirations, differing opinions, marriage role expectations, and living arrangements. Premarital counseling can decrease the risk of divorce, strengthen your bond, and promote awareness of areas where compromise may be necessary. You may connect with a premarital counselor in person or online.
Why You Should Consider Premarital Counseling
Are you engaged? Congratulations! If you're like most engaged couples, you probably can't wait to start planning the big day. After all, this is an event that many people look forward to all their lives. The dress, the venue, the flowers, the music: All these things may take first place in your mind when you think about the day you'll say, "I do."
But what happens when the wedding guests go home, and the honeymoon is over?
Suddenly it may just be the two of you forever.
At first, everything might seem fine. But then, some bothersome issues could rear their ugly heads.
You may find that you're suddenly arguing about money all the time. Or maybe one of you wants to move to another state for a better job, meaning your partner would have to leave a job they love. Or maybe you are not satisfied with the level of sexual intimacy in your marriage and begin to resent your partner for it.
These, and many other potential conflicts, can be normal issues that may arise in the course of marriage.
But just like any of life's problems, these are often easier to ride out if you have a plan in place for managing and coping with them. Hence, the potential importance of premarital counseling.
You might think about it this way: With all the time you spend planning your wedding, doesn't your marriage deserve at least as much attention?
When it comes to having a marriage that stands the test of time, it usually takes dedication and respect from both partners that supersede the conflicts and differences that can arise throughout your lives together. While there may be nothing that can guarantee a marriage will last forever, premarital counseling can go a long way toward creating the conditions for a truly happy and healthy marriage.
Premarital counseling can come in many forms (online, in groups, through a religious institution, etc.) and typically provides engaged couples with the opportunity to prepare for marriage by discussing topics that will likely be a significant part of your future life together, or that may be potential causes for marital stress
Here are some of the topics you may discuss.
This is often one of the biggest topics which couples argue, and it’s often cited as a reason for divorce. A therapist can help you agree on your financial goals and priorities to head off potential problems. You can talk about how much you want to save every month and specifically how you're going to go about doing it.
You may discuss whether you want children, and if so, talk about a timeline for starting a family. Being on the same page about discipline is often critical, as well as being in agreement about the values you want to pass down.
Each partner may tell their ideas about the ideal levels of emotional and physical intimacy so that you can come to an agreement about expectations and how you may fulfill each other’s needs.
Values And Beliefs
What's most important to you in life? If you say friends and family, but your future spouse says work, you may need to agree on a few mutually respectful adjustments. Similarly, if you have different religious or spiritual views, it may be helpful to consider various scenarios regarding the ways your belief systems may impact your marriage.
Future Goals And Aspirations
You may discuss how each of you sees your future together and talk about your personal goals. For example, are you planning to stay at the same job for the rest of your life? Will you eventually crave a career change? How will this affect the family? Do you believe it's important for one parent to stay home with the children when they're young? How will that work? There can be much to discuss regarding this topic.
Do you have opposing political views or hold different opinions on various hot-button issues? Without a plan to tolerate and accept these differences in opinion, your marriage could quickly become contentious. Premarital counseling can help you learn to discuss opposing views with respect and love.
Living arrangements are often another topic of discussion during premarital counseling sessions. You may answer questions about where the two of you will live, how you will split the space, and how the living arrangements may change if you have children or choose to have an aging family live with you. If you are already living together before marriage, you may use counseling to address issues about living together.
Marriage Role Expectations
Your ideas about spousal roles are typically shaped in large part by your family of origin. Your future spouse likely had different experiences than you did, so it can be helpful to convey your perception of a good marriage and what the expectations should be. You may each have to separate from the ideals of your family of origin in order to form your own expectations of what you’d like your own marriage to be like.
Potential Benefits Of Premarital Counseling
Premarital counseling usually provides more than just topics to discuss. While discussing these topics, you and your partner will probably also learn how to respectfully talk about them without the conversation leading to fighting and hurt feelings, plus how to successfully resolve conflicts when they inevitably happen. The counselor’s office can act as a safe space to reveal thoughts and feelings you may otherwise have been keeping to yourself for fear of "rocking the boat" or causing unnecessary stress on your relationship.
- A better understanding of your and your partner's hopes for your marriage and life together
- Improved communication and conflict management skills to keep issues from escalating into serious marital problems
- Awareness of differences that may require compromise and a chance to lay the groundwork for those compromises before you're married
- Outside examples of successful marriages and what it takes to maintain one
- A stronger bond and increased trust with your partner
- Reduced risk of divorce (according to a 2006 study, couples who had premarital counseling were 31% less likely to divorce)
- A greater awareness of the areas of your relationship that are already very strong and others that may need some more work
Couples who decide to forego premarital counseling can still go on to have a fulfilled married life, and couples who participate in it can still get divorced. However, there's no denying that premarital counseling can offer many benefits to couples in terms of ensuring they're fully prepared to make a lifelong commitment to each other.
Try Online Premarital Counseling
Sometimes, it can be a challenge to find a time when you and your partner can visit a premarital counselor’s office together. If you have children, the added stressor of safety childcare can also make it difficult to attend premarital counseling sessions. This is where online premarital counseling can be advantageous, as you can get the support you deserve from the comfort of your home.
As this study explains, online therapy interventions for couples can be effective and are often more accessible than attending sessions in person. If you’re interested in premarital counseling, then online therapy may be an excellent option.
Other Commonly Asked Questions:
Does everyone do premarital counseling?
Not all couples do premarital counseling before getting married. However, there can be many benefits if you choose to attend this type of counseling with your partner.
Is premarital counseling a religious thing?
Premarital counseling can be for anyone getting ready to tie the knot and is not inherently connected to religion. However, it can be possible to see a premarital counselor with a specific religious affiliation if you choose, and it can be possible to get premarital counseling through religious institutions in many cases. If you attend an institution such as a church, you may check in with your church to see what they offer.
Can you get married without premarital counseling?
Yes, you can get married without premarital counseling. Still, you may wish to consider attending a few sessions as they may improve the health of your marriage.
Does premarital counseling reduce divorce rates?
Yes, premarital counseling can reduce the likelihood of divorce. Although attending premarital counseling does not necessarily guarantee you’ll stay together forever, and those who don’t attend can still have long-lasting marriages, going to premarital counseling generally lowers the rate of divorce.
What should I ask before marriage?
In premarital counseling sessions, you may discuss a number of topics prior to your wedding date. These topics can include but aren’t restricted to kids and parenting or family life, money, finances, or household bills, the way you communicate or tools you can use to improve communication, and tools for conflict resolution. You may also discuss these topics on your own outside of premarital counseling.
What is a notable limitation of couples therapy?
One notable limitation of couples therapy is that it can’t necessarily save every relationship or every couple from divorce. In general, both partners must be committed to saving the relationship and be willing to put in the necessary effort to overcome issues.
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